Cannabis in America

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly: Marijuana “Not a Factor” in Drug War

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In an interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, John Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security, said that marijuana “is not a factor in the drug war,” contradicting the hard-line stance of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. While Kelly does not have the same authority as Sessions in enforcing the country’s drug laws, his department does deal directly with cross-border issues like marijuana trafficking.

Kelly does not seem to see marijuana as the same community-wrecking terror that Sessions does. In March, Sessions compared marijuana to heroin, which is ravaging communities across America. Referencing the proposal that medical marijuana could be used to treat opioid addictions, Sessions said he was “astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana–so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.”

Marijuana and heroin are both classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule I substances. But while there were more than 50,000 heroin overdoses in the U.S. in 2016, “no death from overdose of marijuana has been reported,” according to the DEA. Kelly’s assessment of the dangers of marijuana run more in line with the DEA’s findings than Sessions’ does.

Kelly expanded on his comments, saying if the U.S. seeks to staunch the flow of drugs into the country, it should focus on three things: “It’s three things. Methamphetamine. Almost all produced in Mexico. Heroin. Virtually all produced in Mexico. And cocaine that comes up from further south.” And although Kelly, unlike Sessions, does not have the authority to determine how the country’s drug laws are enforced, and how punishment is doled out, he weighed in:

“The solution is not arresting a lot of users,” he said. “The solution is a comprehensive drug demand reduction program in the United States that involves every man and woman of goodwill. And then rehabilitation. And then law enforcement. And then getting at the poppy fields and the coca fields in the south.”

Sessions has a tougher stance on drug users; he once said “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Though he said the Cole Memo, an Obama-era directive that prioritizes state drug laws over federal laws, is “valid,” the Trump Administration has signaled that a crack-down could be forthcoming. Twenty-eight states have legalized medical marijuana, while eight states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at



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